Often stereotypes were cleverly turned on their head, with the seraglio-dwellers proving more modern and progressive than their western guests; Selim’s many wives accessorised their (reasonably) traditional Muslim dress with snazzy sunglasses, while the main quartet of lovers were in full period costume.
Each singer was allowed to keep his or her real accent, so there was a very Welsh Osmin, a Mancunian Pedrillo, and Blonde was even written formally into the English translation as an Australian girl. The youth and freshness of the cast allowed for further jokey concessions to the modern world; Pedrillo’s instrument of choice for the serenade was a brightly coloured electric guitar.
The dialogue fell victim to excessive cuts, which meant that the characters (especially Konstanze) remained a little sketchily drawn – and the break for a single interval after “Martern alle Arten” was misplaced.
Musical values were notably high, with energetic and bright conducting from Gary Cooper. Hal Cazalet sang Belmonte with a free, easy tenor which was never under pressure; Joshua Ellicott’s slightly weightier voice was no less attractive and he displayed considerable comic talent as Pedrillo. Elizabeth Donovan found herself taxed by some of Konstanze’s very highest sustained tessitura, but played the role with assurance and serenity; Lorina Gore’s no-nonsense Blonde sang with complete vocal security. Sion Goronwy’s lumbering Osmin had some terrific low notes; physically he towered above the rest of the cast, giving rise to much visual comedy. The ensemble work was excellent.
Richard Jackson’s Selim was a puzzle; there didn’t seem to have been much directorial thought given to his place in the context of the drama, and he was somewhat lacking in stage presence. Otherwise, the dramatic and comic rapport between characters was strong and well-developed.
Mauricio Elloriaga’s set was simple, consisting of shifting panels – ideally designed for maximum versatility in a touring production; the background and costumes were in cheerful candy colours.
Ruth Elleson © 2007